London, UK - March 15, 2023: Parliament Street road sign in Westminster, London, UK.
Author Alexander Tatiev
Category Columnists, Lifestyle, People, Town
Date June 12 2024
Reading Time 3 min.

As the UK elections approach, the political scene has heated up with intense battles between parties. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer, the main contenders for leadership, continue to make statements, promises, and accusations, aiming to maintain their supporters and attract the undecided. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have unveiled their election manifesto. An army of experts and analysts scrutinisesevery word of the opponents, comments on initiatives, and delivers increasingly ambiguous forecasts.

 Sunak vs. Starmer

 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer clashed on financial policy, healthcare, and immigration during the first televised debates of the election race. Before a multi-million television audience, Starmer criticised Sunak’s plan to deport refugees to Rwanda and his threats to exit the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Sunak, in turn, claimed that Labour plans to raise taxes by £2,000 (naturally, Labour accusedhim of lying, violating the ministerial code, and called for an investigation).

Both promised not to increase income tax, national insurance, and VAT. However, Starmer supported introducing VAT for private schools, while Sunak admitted he would consider introducing private medical services if the numerous problems in the NHS cannot be resolved. In conclusion, Starmer urged voters to choose those who remain connected to reality (i.e., Labour), while Sunak warned that opposition power would only bring additional financial burdens.

After the debates, YouGov data showed that the electorate was almost evenly split: 51% favoured Sunak and 49% favouredStarmer. However, Labour still leads in pre-election polls by 20 points.

More Promises…

 A few days after the debates, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak presented the Conservative Party’s election manifesto. Here’s what else the Conservatives promise:

 In Taxation:

– National insurance: reduce by 2%, with future abolition for the self-employed.

– Capital gains tax: establish a two-year exemption for homeowners selling property to tenants.

– Overall tax cuts within the next five years.

In Immigration Policy:

– “Rwanda scheme”: start deportation flights in July.

– Migration limit: initially halve migration, reducing it annually.

– Asylum: review existing agreements with a possible exit from the ECHR.

In International Relations and Security:

– Israel and Palestine: support for Israel’s defence and conditional recognition of the Palestinian state.

– Increase defence spending to 2.5% by 2030.

– National service: introduce mandatory military or civil service for 18-year-olds.

– Police: create 8,000 new jobs.

 In Education, Social Welfare, and Transport:

– School places: fund 100,000 new student places.

– Ban the use of mobile phones in schools.

– Child benefit tax: raise the threshold to £120,000.

– Childcare: provide 30 hours of free care per year.

– Infrastructure: invest £8.3 billion in road improvements and rail network modernisation.

 Additionally, Sunak announced reforms in criminal law:

– A tiered system of murder classification based on the American model: first-degree murder (premeditated killings with automatic life sentences), second-degree murder (intent to cause serious harm or partial self-defence with judicial discretion up to life sentences).

– Increase the minimum sentence for domestic murders to combat domestic violence from 15 to 25 years.

– Review all “homicide” legislation to eliminate loopholes and deficiencies.

 Sunak acknowledged public disappointment with the Conservative Party’s governance but emphasised that, unlike Labour, they have real ideas to address the country’s existing problems.

Budget Hole

 However, the Tories’ plans seem insufficiently financially backed. The Resolution Foundation think tank released a report stating that the next UK government will face a budget deficit of up to £33 billion. Despite promises from both Labour and Conservatives to reduce public debt, the Resolution Foundation criticised these promises as unrealistic. Key factors contributing to budgetary problems include:

– Increased interest payments on existing public debt.

– Declining productivity growth.

The contaminated blood scandal: compensations estimated at £10 billion.

 Analysts predict that the country will either have to raise taxes or cut spending to stay afloat. Maintaining budgets for the NHS, education, defence, and the Foreign Office will require significant cuts in other areas of the economy. Unprotected departments such as justice, the Home Office, and local authorities may face spending reductions of 13% in the coming years.

 The report also challenged Rishi Sunak’s claim of economic growth achieved by the UK since 2010. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s assertions, GDP growth during this period has been modest. Experts attribute this primarily to population growth due to immigration rather than economic strengthening. With this adjustment, GDP per capita in the UK has increased minimally. Labour productivity has remained virtually stagnant since the 2008 crisis, leading to wage stagnation and, consequently, economic tension.

 Future problems, according to the report, include declining migration and an aging population, as well as low trade indicators in the post-Brexit environment. Ultimately, analysts emphasise the importance of redirecting priorities towards productivity and innovation, focusing on long-term development rather than short-term gains.

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